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The Fight Ahead: Activists Look Past Election to TPP Showdown 

Photo by SumOfUs | CC BY 2.0

Photo by SumOfUs | CC BY 2.0

Though this year’s toxic presidential contest still hangs in the balance, progressive activists are already gearing up for another battle this  month  — defeating the TPP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, comprising the U.S. and eleven other countries collectively making up 40 percent of the world economy, represents a tremendous expansion of corporate power that experts warn would greatly erode nation-state sovereignty, particularly through it’s controversial investor state dispute settlement resolution.

The agreement is the brainchild of hundreds of trade representatives and corporate lawyers, crafted in secret over several years. It would lower safeguards on aspects ranging from food quality to the environment to medicine access in one of the most comprehensive trade deals in history.

Yet precisely because the TPP covers so many issues, a diverse array of groups ranging from labor unions to environmentalists to Black Lives Matter have coalesced to squash it when it’s expected to come up for ratification in next week’s lame duck session — which some groups say will happen no matter who wins the presidency on Tuesday.

Legislators, particularly those on their way out from office, are less responsive to constituents during lame duck period, making it easier for  President Obama and lobbyist to press their case.

With this in mind, activists around the country are readying for a final push of rallies and actions to prevent its passage, the largest of which is set for Thursday, Nov. 17, in Washington D.C.

It’s being organized by scores of groups, including Food and Water Watch, the AFL-CIO, National Nurses United, and Our Revolution, a successor to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

There will also be simultaneous actions across the country outside the district offices of lawmakers, as well as in other signatory countries, including Mexico, Chile, and Canada.

“Once legislation is introduced, it’s an uphill battle to stop. it,” said Margaret Flowers, an organizer with Flush the TPP, a campaign by the group Popular Resistance.”We saw during the fast track that Obama administration and the trade reps were able to put the squeeze on members of Congress. We have the potential to defeat it, but its going to require people get engaged.”

At the moment, the consensus is that the agreement does not have the votes to pass. Obama repeated as recently as last week that he will continue to push for passage before his time in office is up, but even the Wall Street Journal is calling his effort a “long-shot bid.”

The TPP’s unpopularity has grown steadily throughout the election cycle.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders surrogates were foiled in an attempt to reject the TPP in the party platform, though at the convention Sanders delegates displayed their discontent with chants of “No TPP” and placards to boot, visibly flustering the carefully-crafted pageantry of speakers.

Trump’s anti-TPP stance found a receptive audience in Republican voters worried it will further gut manufacturing jobs and wages, a message that seems to have rippled up to more establishment figures like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has publicly expressed skepticism about its chances this year.

recent poll found that a majority of registered voters across parties are against it.

“People are starting to see this as an expansion of cooperate power, but not so much about trade,” says Melinda St Louis, of the Global Trade Watch, another group in the anti-TPP coalition.

The coalition opposing the TPP came out of the People’s Summit in Chicago in June, when it became clear Hilary Clinton had won (fairly or not) the democratic primary, and progressive groups were debating how to use momentum from the Bernie Sanders campaign, says Jessica Fujan, midwest director of Food and Water Watch.

The coalition has managed to get a dozen or so members of congress to change their vote to go against the deal, she says. Representative Danny Heck, a democratic congressman in Washington State who announced his opposition a few weeks ago, is one such recent example.

Many legislators are still up for grabs. In Illinois, Food and Water Watch is targeting congressmen Rob Quigly, Rob Dold and Bobby Rush, among others, Fujia explained at a volunteer meeting on Saturday in Chicago. The group spent the afternoon preparing signs for a demonstration outside Quigly’s office to coincide with the march in the country’s capital next week.

Politico reported on Friday that Our Revoltuion, is honing in on five key legislators: Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Beto O’Rourke (Texas), Derek Kilmer (Wash.), and Pennsylvania state Rep. Dwight Evans, the front-runner in the state’s 2nd Congressional District race.

Fujia and others admit it will be close. But if the TPP is defeated now, they say it’s unlikely to come up when congress reconvenes in January.

“Whoever wins the election, it’s not going to be something they can quickly flip-lip on and have any credibility,” St. Louis says.”It gives us space to talk about different model for any trade agreements we have…This is too much of a political hot potato.”

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Oliver “Oscar” Ortega is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin. Back in his mainstream media days, his work appeared in the Boston Globe and other regional newspapers. He can be reached at: oortega.news@gmail.com

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